Monday, April 30, 2007

America Needs to Face the Past on Slavery

There are always those that tell African-Americans who want to discuss the legacy of slavery to "get responsibility" and that "it is a thing of the past". But, when one petulantly tells non-white people to do this, they are missing the boat entirely. What they don't see is that the effects of slavery still occur on a daily basis--right down to how different races treat each other on a daily basis.

They don't see that slavery was built upon the "privileges" of skin color that still exist today. They don't see the unearned benefits that have resulted from the notion of "superiority" that allows certain access to some while others get left behind. The naysayers do not even notice that when they tell a non-white person to "take responsbility", that they are never clear on what needs to be done. Nor, it is not noticed that the people of color to whom this is addressed to have "taken responsibility" in their own lives and work very hard to make themselves a productive member in society.

All in all, this is done as a way of "shutting up the opposition". By using catchphrases that demean the experiences and words of the non-white people, it is as if the very essence of legacies that have marked our nation do not matter. The sad part of this is that when people do not want to have an honest talk about slavery, they are perpetuating what other people in the dominant culture in the past has done. In essence, they are continuing the same vicious cycle of burying one's head in the sand hoping that it will go away.

Slavery can not be "dealt with" by just "getting over it". As an descendant of slaves who have had to experience the brutal effects at the hands of their overseers, fellow citizens and Masters, their experiences and lives are a part of my family heritage. I can't sweep their life stories and contributions to America under the rug like those who would say that other non-white people "ought to". In fact, if I did try to take their advice and "sweep it under the rug", that would be just as good as ignoring that they exist as a part of my lineage. It would also mean that I would have been complicit in dehumanizing them as those who want others to "take responsibility" would have done.

In that light, it is highly important that slavery is dealt with honestly instead of resorting to the words of political pundits who have no identification with the life experiences belonging to the decendant of slaves. As long as they continue to spread their issues of lack of identification with the experiences of non-white people to their audiences, we will continue to have the problems with discussing race as we do today. Or else, if race is to be discussed in terms of slavery, it would have to be done on their terms and no one else's.

Maybe we should take responsibility in trying to have a true discussion on the repercussions of slavery. For those who favor responsibility, they have to take it among themselves to not shy away from the brutality of the system and address the decendents of slaves honestly by explaining themselves when they say such denigrating terms as "crying about race" or "getting over it". What they don't understand is that not everyone operates in the same way they do when sweeping the contributions and histories of their ancestors under the rug and stoically going on.

Some of us value our families more than others. And for those of us who truly want to give a life-affirming value to our relatives who have worked and lived under extreme circumstances, we owe it to them to tell their stories and to work with others to make a society that understands each other historically, socially and economically. This is especially the case when their legacies still haunt and affect us still. It's not so much about "getting over it". It is about being clear about how they have shaped American history and life. Furthermore, we must use their legacy to postively change how we relate with others in the future.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Fuss About George Tenet

In the middle of the week, former CIA chief George Tenet came out with explosive words regarding the early evidence leading up to the Iraq War. The moment of contention occurred when he was mentioned in Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack of the evidence being a "slam dunk". In the words of the current Administration, he had allegedly spoken as if he was sure of the "proof" that would be enough to prove Iraq was a threat to the United States.

But that was water under the bridge. Six years later, Mr. Tenet allegedly spoke that the mere mentioning of that phrase had brought him down a peg or two. This was especially so when the Downing Street memos came out as well as the assertions from Hans Blix and Scott Ritter that there were no WMD's to be found.

He wrote of these awarenesses in an upcoming book. One could say that it was his way of telling the world his side of the story as the casualties mount up. And it even seems quite metaphorical especially when walls are a part of the policy of dealing with the civil unrest that happens daily on the streets of Iraq.

Looking back at all that has happened, it is hard to say that it was a "slam dunk"--even when looking at how our soldiers have been treated overseas and at home. Worse, it is hardly a score when for the sake of allegedly falsified evidence the citizens at home have to deal with their civil liberties taken away for the "War on Terror".

The scary thing is the fact that some Americans actually believe "for the sake of safety", that believing everything that the government said was a good thing. And in the in the end, all it amounted to was a campaign built upon fear which is constantly played up even in the MSM today.

It has been said that we would finally know the story years later when the books start to be written. Perhaps Mr. Tenet's book is the first of a long line of texts which try to explain to us what exactly happened despite the tight-lipped arrogance of the Bush White House.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Iraq Takes Center Stage Once Again

To most people, CSPAN is this place where an unblinking camera eye focuses on the events in Washington calmly. A soft voice over announces the events of the day while this unfettered view of governmental events is sprinkled with calls from citizens all over the country.

And then, there are days like this one in which watching CSPAN is akin to viewing the "Friday Night Fights". The bill of contention calls attention toward changing the Iraq War policy. And believe you me. The talk expressed today did not strive to put anyone asleep. There were strong words to be had on both sides of the aisle. And from the various arguments, one could see the emotional sides of the debate streaming through in terms of what to do with this conflict overseas.

There were several speeches standing out during today's proceedings about the Additional 2007 Spending Conference Report. And from what was viewed, both sides were not happy. Not in the least.

Rep. James Moran (D.-Va) had some sharp words that echoed some of the sentiments against what happened in terms of the dealings in Iraq. He did not stand idly by. Calling the government "corrupt", he found it ironic that for a White House allegedly declaring that Iraq was a lot safer in the past, not one dignitary ventured out of the highly touted "green zone" (supposedly the safest part of the country). He tersely called into question the government's priorities when it came to the soldiers, especially those killed or injured. His words especially reminded one of the deplorable conditions in the Walter Reed Center, where the living casualties from the conflict dealt with moldy walls and shoddy treatment.

However, the Republicans did not stay silent after stinging commentary. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R.-Ga), felt that these latest arguments from the Dems stemmed from special interests. Of course, it did not escape him to mention the insinuation that "Moveon.Org and other liberal organizations" had a hand in pushing this legislation. Of course, one forgets the special interest groups that helped push Republican legislation over the past six years, but we've got to forget that. Now, he allegedly felt that there was a reason behind this and a "liberal conspiracy" was not far behind. Unfortunately, he connected this with the same diatribe of Democrats not "giving victory a chance". One could tell that this was yet another criticism of Sen. Harry Reid's (D.-Nev.)words that this was an unwinnable war.

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D.-Tx) could not let that pass with yet another glowing moment in the talks that were held today. She announced that there was "no white flag on this side of the aisle". She clearly explained the issues in the bill being pushed in Congress. It was to put a check on the President and it also put money towards veterans hospitals, especially those which dealt with traumatic brain injuries. She also did not sit down before thanking those who served, especially the nine soldiers who lost their lives earlier this month.

The other notable comment came from Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill). Always outspoken and to the point, he called the Iraq war policy, "the worst national security crisis". He also added that there was "no real plan for success" there. His statements hit it all home because he alluded to the White House and the Republicans always asking and doing the same thing without any change in the circumstances in the Middle East. He alone called it out in terms of disastrous actions that will have terrible repercussions for years to come.

What to make of this?

Read this from the Baltimore Sun:

Defiant and unified last night in the face of a promised presidential veto, House Democrats pushed through an emergency war spending bill that orders President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by this fall.

The 218-208 vote, largely along party lines, is expected to be followed today by Senate approval of the same measure.

The president has promised to veto the bill early next week.

The $124 billion measure funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of the year and provides billions for veterans' health care and other nonmilitary programs.

Missing the suspense of congressional war debates earlier this year, yesterday's vote is merely one act in a largely scripted political drama unfolding in Washington as congressional Democrats intent on challenging the president push ahead with a bill they know will never become law.

The punchline to the entire thing has to do with accountability. In the past, the current Administration has participated in their actions afforded to the Iraq War while deflecting any sort of criticism that calls into question the ethics and the truth behind this conflict. The sad thing is that without taking any sort of responsibility, what you get is nothing but a fettered mess in which more people are dying daily without any sort of true empathy about their passing at the hands of battle.

What you get is a lot of questions without any depth of answer from the current Administration. And if the Democrats and others do not investigate the reasons behind the conflict, who will?

The Dems need to stick to their guns despite the veto. The people need to know the reasons behind why we're over there. And most importantly, we must take care of our men and women overseas while showing concern for the civilians caught in the crossfire. There are no boundaries in war. Instead, what happens is that all sides are affected desperately. And without any insight to the policy, casualties and propaganda are all we get.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two Weeks That Will Live in Infamy

One only needs to be frank here. The past two weeks had raised not only issues that need to be discussed in America; the past fortnight reminded us all how vunerable we truly are in terms of understanding humanity. It seems that sometimes there are events that are out of our control. No matter how we want to have everything nicely ordered, there are chaotic occurrences that seem to bring matters that are seemingly swept under the rug back into the national spotlight.

Race is something that is emotional to a lot people. But what the Don Imus event and the shooting at Virginia Tech taught is that America not only needs to deal with its multiculturalism; it needs to discuss how citizens treat the disenfranchised in the nation.

Cho Seung Hui, I reiterate, was deeply troubled. As his writings and videologs demonstrated, he had deep seated feelings concerning how he viewed the world and how the world treated him. Unfortunately, he took his angst and rage out against his classmates and faculty which resulted in 32 lost lives, making himself the 33rd one. In the midst of this tragedy, one has to take a step back and continue to research the issues why. Although CNN (with small dabblings from Soledad O'Brien and Anderson Cooper) tried to delve into the cultural angle, there still needs to be more work done in this area because it would probably say much more about his attitudes and motivations than the usual forensic explaination that paints the "school shooter".

One of the things that stood out about Mr. Cho was the fact that he was bullied in High School and College. And as CNN noted in their special report this evening, the alleged gunman left secondary school without any friends. He ceased to know his own personality to the point of referring to himself as a question mark. Others refused to understand him. Since, he did not get any help in trying to personally find himself, he imploded. His implosion sadly caused a tragedy that will never be erased in the minds of the victims of this terrible happening as well as the viewers who watched it. He died leaving more questions instead of answers.

What was especially relevant about the last week is the fact that there was plenty of rage to spread around. This rage was especially punctuated when NBC and other news outlets tried to air the writings and videolog of Mr. Cho. The outcry of the public was so fierce that it resulted in the media pulling back their coverage to suit the temperment of those who were grieving. When you are thinking in terms of the media mindset, one has to ask whether it was the right thing to do.

Knowing that uncovering the motivations of Mr. Cho was a story itself (despite the remarks from some of the audience who said his side of the story was a "non-issue because they didn't want to know), it probably was a stab at rare decency that the news organizations decided not to delve into this aspect of the story more than that one day. But for those people in the audience who truly wanted to know why Mr. Cho did what he did, this act only served to prove that sometimes special interests get in the way of objectivity--especially when it comes down to the public's right to know.

Amongst all this, his race was a non-issue. Part of this reason was because that still a lot of the viewing public do not "see" race. They would rather be "color-blind". When race is usually dealt with in the news, it is done in the perspective of the dominant culture with few other interpretations.

Say what you will, but Mr. Cho's posthumous presence on the small screen disturbingly brought up not only matters which had to do with stereotype (especially when commented upon by clinicians and criminologists from the dominant culture). His aura alone challenged and reinforced stereotypes that people had about non-white people. And despite the fact that the news outlets tried to write off this aspect, even they were ill equipped to deal with this phenomenon except to resort to the tried and true interpretations of the "school shooter": a "loner"; "always persecuted"; "tried to fit in"; "vented his rage in writings and songs (Collective Soul)". But with the cultural issue held out at the surface, one thing the media will not discuss is the phenomenon of bullying--especially when it has to do with non-white people in education. There is a lot to be said here, but then again, it brings up another issue about culture and society: the aftermath of Don Imus' words.

Mr. Imus was fired from his job for calling the Women's Basketball team from Rutgers University, "nappy headed ho's". For some people commenting on Mr. Imus' phrase, they felt that too much was made out of this notion. And of course, they vented the blame on civil rights dignitaries Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. The problem that both Mr. Cho and Mr. Imus' case presents is that there is always a pass when it comes to derogatory things said by the dominant culture. And when they are spoken in reference to a person of color, it is usually referred to "as a joke". The speaker "didn't mean anything by it". Or, there is an expressed obliviousness to the meaning of the "derogatory speech", no matter how hurtful it is to the people of color involved.

During the coverage of the tragedy of Virginia Tech, much was made out of the fact that Cho somehow defied the stereotypes of the "model minority". It was as if he went down the wrong path because he "didn't try to work toward the American Dream" and that "he couldn't fit in and work really hard". But yet, he was "silent" and "reserved". But no one noticed how much the stereotypes weighed upon him. His underlying anger in defiance of these stereotypes came out unfortunately in his works. And for the people of color who found offence from being called "nappy-headed", such phrases resort from the dominant gaze marking the presence of non-white people in society. Added with the constant ridiculing of the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton, the same stereotypes weighed heavily on Black people because in the dominant culture, they "didn't get over it" and "screamed about race again". Not only that, they "attacked Mr. Imus' rights of free speech". No sooner after that, Mr. Imus was turned into an "embattled" person who was being used as a "scapegoat" as a result of a "non-issue" that made "too much fuss".

But what people don't understand about both cases is that these stereotypes exist. And there are people who are from the dominant culture that participate in this type of denigrating speech--if not in whispers, but also in a public venue. And there has been too many times, the dominant culture has told non-white people to "get over it" and to "stop crying about it" in order to force them to be complicit with the things said. And when situations arise that results from all this inverted anger, still the pieces are left for the public to ask why instead of trying to discuss the issue honestly.

Most importantly, in the dominant gaze, one expects a non-white person to "sweep cultural issues" under the rug like one does. But when these things are in a person of color's face day in and out, how can one hold it in and remain silent? A non-white person cannot, especially when time after time pundits like Mr. Imus and the rest of the media engage in this descriptive talk without any criticism back. And when there is an outcry over the denigrating language, it suddenly becomes bothersome, so much so, that spokespersons from the dominant culture turn against people of color for bringing it up. And there is no idea how much it affects non-white people when this happens. Instead, there are calls from the dominant public to "join American culture" and "stop being a victim".

The problem with this is the fact that such talk does no good. And when it is echoed in the media over and over, it only seems to reinforce the type of behavior that forces non-white people to hold in their feelings in fear that their experiences might be dismissed. When people of color do bring these things up amongst themselves, there is always someone from the "peanut gallery" who will call for them to "take responsbility" and "stop bringing up these things and treat people like all humans regardless of color". Unfortunately, this talk does not reveal the awareness that despite the fact that we are all "human beings", there are differences between us that has caused institutional racism as a result of history, politics and society.

Instead, there are some who would like the rest of us to think that "nothing happened". And some will blatantly and petulantly announce in discussions about culture, "There's nothing to see here".

But there is something to see here. These two issues reveal that there is much more to be said before the healing takes place in America. After all, America has to not only deal with its recent past in terms of disparaging treatment towards some of its cultural groups; it has to come to terms with itself in recognizing what has happened to groups outside of the dominant culture, especially when dealing with feelings and experiences that are rendered different.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

'Real Talk' About a Senstive Issue

Today's focus on the tragic events on Virginia Tech's campus dwelled on trying to define the personality of the alleged gunman, Cho Seung Hui. I have no doubt because of what he did, his name will probably be famous enough to feed America's fascination with the perpetrators of violence. Of course, his face, actions and writings have been plastered on every media outlet since it has been discovered that he sent a package to NBC before his final descent into a VT building.

Throughout the day, the surrealness of his message posthumously aired as pundits, politicians, criminologists and the like gave their two cents about why he might have done it. As riveting as these investigative stories were, there is quite another sensitive issue revealed when looking at the media-objectification of the 23-year-old man.

There is no doubt that Mr. Cho was a very troubled, mentally unstable, young man who needed help on many levels. When celebrated poetess and VT professor Nikki Giovanni even told her department heads that if they didn't do something about him she'd quit, you know that something must have been up during this long descent towards the terrible events of this week.

While the FBI criminologists tried to sort this out, I delved into the views of other people of color like myself who are trying to make sense out of this. I had to read their words to help formulate a fuller picture of this sad occurrence.

As a person of color, one really sees how the media treats non-white people--whether they are good or bad. In the case of Mr. Cho, it was rather eye-opening to watch the politicians, pundits and clinicians from the dominant culture try to be "as racially neutral" in their statements in a "colorblind" way. However, the words and the images truly speak for themselves, especially when other issues quietly wend their way into the discourse of the tragedy at Viriginia Tech.

Some of the broadcast items on the air conveyed that Mr. Cho's act coincides with "illegal immigration". He was a legal resident of America. However, that even came a close second to what was used in conjunction with this first description. When one reporter had said he was an "legalized alien", the descriptions of Mr. Cho's criminality took an entirely different turn.

When I heard these definitions about Mr. Cho's personality, I wondered whether the broadcast journalist who brought up these descriptive, negative terms, thought any differently about this statement in comparison to the other perjorative term, "illegal". What was worse (and subtly done, I might add as in the Imus case) is that the media outlets trotted out the "token" people of color in order to show that there wasn't any disparities in the reportage. While this was happening, it did not escape me that a high percentage of interviewees who received face-time on cable about their pain and suffering belonged to the dominant culture.

Now, that does not take away from the fact that all people suffered from this horrible happening. And it shouldn't. But, in the media, perceptions are the key--whether it is someone saying that a group of young women are "nappy-headed ho's" or whether a 23-year old man was thought of as barely "saying two words in class" and "persecuted by rich kids".

The underlying motif that seemed to play under the narrative of trying to define Mr. Cho continued with the usual stereotypes of being "quiet" and "unassuming". Even the early assumptions about him were weighed on the fact that "he might have gotten a bad grade and retaliated because of it". Blatantly, these aspects might go unnoticed by some of the viewing public. But to others, this stereotypically points to the myth of the "model minority", that somehow Mr. Cho was an "anomaly" among other Asians in the guise that he "acted out" while others stoically "hold it in and try to work hard to make it in America".

I could only wonder how the media would have done it if a Black man was found to be the shooter instead of a Asian man. One could only speculate now, but I know that it would even be a little bit uglier--if you take the media-objectification of Colin Ferguson and the D.C. Snipers into mind.

I only wish that someone would break ranks in the MSM and invite someone who could provide a cultural perspective on this issue. It would be helpful in order to not only continue breaking the silence and stigma surrounding race in America; but also to provide a different take on these events that go beyond the usual explainations that come out of the cable talk shows and the network investigative shows. If this were to happen, it might make this issue more broad and encompassing than the usual "loner, delusional, persecuted" explaination that continues to be peddled.

I wonder if anyone tried to ask the question why Mr. Cho felt persecuted instead of writing it off as solely delusional? Did it not occur to some of the journalists that in college, a lot of students of color have to face institutional racism in terms of education?

These things are a factor of life for a lot people of color on a daily basis, but especially in higher education. But the question still remains silent and unspoken.

In that light, there are few investigative journalists and pundits of color who are given a chance to give their perspective on major events. And of course, when crime happens, few clinicians and criminologists of color are even invited to weigh in and give meaning to what happened. Unfortunately, this does not happen on a regular basis. And when extraordinary events occur such as this one, they are quite non-existent.

But until news departments try to make changes in their coverage, all we'll get is the same old song and dance--unless there is an audience committed enough to write them and force them to adjust their narrowed view.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In the Midst of Tragedy, We Cannot Forget the Shenanigans at the Capital and Issues in American Society

This is almost a heresy during this week to bring it up. This tragedy is terrible, but we cannot forget that there are several hot-button issues that up on the plate in Washington.

For starters, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is still in the hot-seat due to the firings of the eight U.S. District Attorneys. Yes, he has a lot to answer for. Although he got a reprieve recently due to current events, he can't stay away forever. He has to answer for his part in this drama. And, the oversight committee that is looking into this matter has to stay on their job and get to the bottom of this because it points to further corruption that has been going on in the current Administration.

And then, there is the voting rights issue for the District of Washington. The citizens of this area are Americans who deserve a full and equal voice in the federal government as much as anyone else in the United States. They need to have more than a representative in Congress. They need to have one with voting rights in federal business that counts.

Clearly and succinctly, DC Fusion delves into this aspect on his blog, "Scripted Musings for No one in Particular". Find out more about this pertinent issue by reading his entries. He has written two very good, recent pieces on this subject that points out the issues intelligently of why the citizens of DC deserve equal representation in government.

Lest we forget the conflict in Iraq and the war drums toward Iran. This is something that is very pertinent in terms of national and foreign policy. Yes, Mr. Bush had gone "out of his way" to show compassion to the fallen this week. However, that does not excuse him and the rest of his cronies in office for what they have done in terms of whittling away civil liberties and concocting a war based on fabrication. They still need to be asked about these matters. And most of all, the Congress must work to bring a change in the policies of the Middle East and work on bringing our men and women home.

Last but not least, the Don Imus occurrence last week must not be forgotten. Sure, he's fired from his job. And, he might potentially be rehired again. But his words have uncovered a deeper issue within the social fabric of American society that goes beyond First Amendment rights. It's not about having the freedom to say whatever you want. It's about what you use with that freedom of speech, especially when it has to do with respect and conscience. The problem here is that the past event with the talk show host has revealed that America has to be serious about discussing social disparity and race in the United States. People cannot remain silent and brush it off with convenient, but inocuous "catch phrases" meant to dismiss experiences and demean the speakers. We need to settle down and start trying to heal the rifts that have occurred due to culture and social awareness.

When Dealing With What Happened at Virginia Tech, Please Don't Bring Up the "Victim Mentality"

The "victim mentality". These two words have been thrown around not only by political pundits, but in popular culture. As I had written earlier in my entry about "empathy", there seems to be a trend that equates victims with opportunism. This aspect seems to be detrimental to those who suffered and calls for the silence of their experiences. And, after these two melancholy days, it is hoped that there aren't pundits or politicians out there who will not accuse the people, families and community who has endured this terrible tragedy of being part of a "victim culture" or having the "victim mentality".

When this attitude is taken when accusing people who suffer of "whining" about their experiences, it points out how indifferent and callous some could be to avoid getting in touch with connecting with others. It further points out how detrimental silence could be when trying to shun those who have experience tremendous, chaotic circumstances. And especially when those two phrases are used, it points to this fact.

Would anyone dare accuse the students, staff, families and faculty of being part of a "victim culture", that they were "crying about their circumstances" and possessing a "victim mentality"? It would not only be a faux pas. It would also revisit the stance of punishing those who need comfort and care. Worse, it would be even more terrible if the same self-centered stances would be applied to bully them into "holding it all inside", so that others could not hear first hand of the pain.

One of the main problems that arises from the accusation of having the "victim mentality" or being part of a "victim culture", is that this stance--along with a complicity with violence--is celebrated in American culture. Because no one has tried to counter the mentality of those who go around penalizing the victims in society, it seems all right to say this right in the face of those who have bad experiences in their lives. And instead of just sitting down and listening to their pain and insights, the callousness results into belitting and pigeon-holing them into shame. And that should not happen. There is nothing shameful about sharing one's pain.

But what does have a mark of shame is when people blatantly flaunt their inability to care and hide it in the guise of "strength" and "self-actualization". What is even more irrephrensible is that those who accuse others of the "victim mentality", use this as a way of "not talking about pain" and "wanting to let the experiences die so that they don't want to come up again."

Things have to change. Holding things in has never been very good. What happens when one does hold things in is that there is an implosion without any outlet to release one's feelings. This is especially detrimental when one wants others to listen and eventually has to face another's back turned to them.

One has to wonder how Americans will treat the survivors of this terrible happening this week. Will they allow those who endured tremendous loss and pain to speak and be comforted? Or will the people of the United States suddenly tire of this and then descend into the repetitious tripe that punishes the victims instead of comforting them?

After all, there will be other headlines. And the current story will fade into the sunset with another item that will take its place. But the victims of Virginia Tech will still have to face not only their grief, fear and experiences of the traumatic event. And, they will still need others to reach out to in order for compassion in this time of need. Just like the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, they too deserve care.

While we continue to ask why it happened, let us not forget those who suffer. Treat them with open arms. Do not dismiss their experiences. Listen attentively and kindly without any judgment. By taking action through being caring and showing a sense of connection, we won't need to use such terms as the "victim culture" and "victim mentality" again.

Let those two phrases go the way of the dodo.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keep the Faculty Members In Your Thoughts Too

Although the shooting at Virginia Tech University has a devestating impact on students, there has been word that faculty members were also part of the casualties today. And, for the most part, the media had streams of students they interviewed interlaced with professional opinions by criminologists and psychologists. The story is not done here by any means. But while it is being sorted out, the faculty cannot be forgotten in the flurry of coverage in the next few days.

Faculty members have a tough job in today's universities. Not only do they have to write articles; they also have to sit on committees, conduct classes and engage in other duties that fill their time leading up to tenured security. Tenure is much harder to obtain these days. The hoops they have to jump through seem almost insurmountable, especially when dealing with the politics within departments.

And with papers to grade, they have a lot on their plate under the "perish or publish" threat that seems to occur semester after semester, year in and year out.

Students sometimes do not think about how hard their professors have to work. And in times like what happened today, the faculty have had to not only deal with their own emotions on this terrible day, they also have to face the residual effects of what has happened to their students. They suffer just as much as their students do. In fact, they might suffer more as people who are responsible for molding the future workforce and leaders of tomorrow.

The sad thing is the fact that sometimes students view their professors as the "bad guy" because of a decision about a paper, test or final. Because the faculty is responsible for making hard decisions that might have drastic effects on their students, they in turn have to deal with the repercussions and often wonder about them. This is also mixed in with the pressure to be a good "role model" for those under their tutledge.

In the guise of the student, it is not easy for them to think along these lines about their professor--especially if they run things in a strict manner. But, they are people too. They suffered today as well as the students did. Some of the stories that came out today demonstrated that some tried to protect their students from the alleged gunman. And although none had been interviewed--as of yet--they took on a yeoman's task today in order to keep their students safe in the name of survival.

So, it is best to take a little time and think about the faculty today in the midst of the headlines. They do a hard job every day. And today, they had to do an exceptional job under tough circumstances.

"It Couldn't Happen Here"

I don't know what it is about the week of April the 15th. The Oklahoma City Bombing happened this week. The shootings at Columbine occurred during this week. And unfortunately before this week could pass by peacefully another year, there is the terrible event at Virginia Tech University. Again, it devestatingly marked itself on the calendar today and took its place among the chaotic, unspeakable events that boggle the mind.

With the media, it took its usual, "When it bleeds, it leads" type of stance in covering the events of the day. From the crack of dawn, the unblinking camera-eye focused on the drama and trama of fear, grief and questioning as the press conferences were conducted amidst the vigils to mourn such a tremendous loss. Even on Larry King, Dr. Phil made his usual visit with his insights into why it happened.

But even he does not have all the pieces together. In that, the answers, like in Columbine, are a long time coming. Instead, the visceral is closely watched as descriptions and tears flowed equally to the rapt attention of the audience. And in the course of daily events, we still did not come any closer to solving why it happened. But, the occurences today continued to be marked with a sense of sadness and regret of how situations like the one at Virginia Tech could have been avoided.

It is easy to say that our culture has been built on violence and continues to be marked by violence--from the top on down. You could even say with the same facility that it is celebrated in our culture.

The impact is still the same when one views the sad faces and the bewildered looks on television. The flowing of compassion for those who were affected by this terrible happening still comes through. The event has been marked. The investigations have begun. But, it still doesn't erase the quiet knowledge that this week has impacted the lives of everyday Americans and citizens across the globe before.

And in a roundabout way, there are still these questions among all others, "Why this week? Why today?"

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What Ever Happened to Empathy?

In the post-September 11th world, a growing trend resounds: the absence of empathy. People who have endured extraordinary circumstances and have survived them are victims. However, the new guise that has been bandied about in the media as well as political circles is the fact that a "victim" is less than fashionable. In essence, the "victim" is equated with "the opportunist".

Problematically, by signifying the victim as almost a persecutor on the public's emotions, empathy seems almost at a standstill. In my discussions about this, it has amazed me how quick it is to accuse someone who has suffered with "whining" about their plight. It is as if that no one wants to hear about stories of survival against the odds anymore--especially when they have to do with highlighting social disparity.

Many explainations try to elaborate why there is such a lack of empathy exists in America. One attributes this aspect to an almost encouragement by our national leaders, pundits and other spokespersons to revile and demonizing the victim because he or she would reveal flaws in "the system". Another goes forth to purport that Americans are almost urged to be "self-oriented" and "cool", being praised for not letting their emotions show. If one cries or spills forth their story, then it is a show of vunerability that does not deserve any comfort or assurances. Still, another one equates victimhood to purity. According to theorist Alyson Cole, the victim has to shown to be above amorality before the public sympathizes with him or her.

It is as if the attack on victimhood has to do with a backlash of the "confessional culture" of the nineties. Everyone from the former President on down the line spilled their guts about what ailed them. Talk shows such as Geraldo, Donahue, Oprah, Jenny Jones and Rikki Lake were at their height. Victims had become the spectacle for good ratings as they shared their stories with others across the television audience.

After September 11th, the tide changed. Pundits became more like official spokespersons, especially if they followed the usual "talking points". And if certain groups that didn't fit within the "system" spoke out, they were instantly shouted down because they were part of a larger "victim culture". Especially, the recipients of this unwarranted chastising would be members of the disenfranchised. Their stories and experiences against the "system" were now taken to be drivel because they did not embrace a sense of "individuality". Furthermore, breaking the silence of what they experienced in terms of social disparity was not "taking responsibility" for "one's self".

This is part and parcel of an individual-oriented society. When one is taught to solely focus on one's concerns, they feel no outer connectedness to others--whether it is in the same group or outside of it. With self-oriented thinking comes a lesser need to reach out to get to know others because there is no since of identification. Lack of connectiveness leads to little empathy, not by any shape of the imagination. Even worse, when citizens are praised for their individualism without accounting for a sense of community, then there is sort of a suspicion about other people who are connected to a group.

Some of the greatest books, such as George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World were predicated on the evils of group thinking. And if you get down to recent Star Trek Lore, then you have the Borg--who only want others to join the group and think along a singular line.

Individuality tends to be more indicative of democracy and freedom. Yet, when one looks under the surface, individuality also causes loneliness as well. With so much love for one's self, then one does not look outward to see how they are part of a larger society of people, let alone care about their welfare. In this manner, there is no way to see how one might be connected in the chain of others in society. And without any way to discern how being part of larger community works, then there seems to be no allegiance--except to one's self.

To break it all down, there is nothing wrong with personal individuality. Each person possesses their own traits that make them unique. That is important. But when it gets in the way of caring for others and identifying with them, then self-oriented thinking transforms into self-centeredness. Without thinking about "the community", then there is no greater sense of history or culture. What is even more, there isn't a sense of feeling when there are others of the same society who have experienced extreme hardship.

Emotional exhaustion against those who suffer exist instead.

A lack of sympathetic demonstration for those who suffer subtlely indicates how our society is in a sorry state. It is especially sad that this is punctuated by continuing the trauma of the victim by either dismissing or denouncing the message--especially when it has to do with something contrary to a set of given beliefs. Perhaps the reason why a lack of empathy is so successful is that it is easier to maintain and implement than actually trying to practice the manner of caring.

Perhaps, it is time we relearn how to care and connect with our fellow citizens instead of putting them in the midst of accusation.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

About Those Missing Five Million E-mails....

Let's just face it. Drama is part of the current Administration. First, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has to deal with his own lawyer resigning. And now, there is another story growing legs in the press. It has to do with the violation of the federal Presidential Records Act of 1978:

Specifically, the Presidential Records Act:

* Defines and states public ownership of the records.

* Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.

* Allows the incumbent President to dispose of records that no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value, once he has obtained the views of the Archivist of the United States on the proposed disposal.

* Requires that the President and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.

* Establishes a process for restriction and public access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to Presidential records through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the Administration, but allows the President to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to twelve years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent Administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty-day notice period to the former and current Presidents.

* Requires that Vice-Presidential records are to be treated in the same way as Presidential records.

But wait. There was an Executive Order signed by President of the United States George Bush as an "amendment" to the act. You know he had to do something about this one way or another. Let's just get to the juiciest part, shall we:

(d) Concurrent with or after the former President's review of the records, the incumbent President or his designee may also review the records in question, or may utilize whatever other procedures the incumbent President deems appropriate to decide whether to concur in the former President's decision to request withholding of or authorize access to the records.

(1)When the former President has requested withholding of the records: (i) If under the standard set forth in section 4 below, the incumbent President concurs in the former President's decision to request withholding of records as privileged, the incumbent President shall so inform the former President and the Archivist. The Archivist shall not permit access to those records by a requester unless and until the incumbent President advises the Archivist that the former President and the incumbent President agree to authorize access to the records or until so ordered by a final and nonappealable court order. [[Page 56027]] (ii) If under the standard set forth in section 4 below, the incumbent President does not concur in the former President's decision to request withholding of the records as privileged, the incumbent President shall so inform the former President and the Archivist. Because the former President independently retains the right to assert constitutionally based privileges, the Archivist shall not permit access to the records by a requester unless and until the incumbent President advises the Archivist that the former President and the incumbent President agree to authorize access to the records or until so ordered by a final and nonappealable court order.

(2) When the former President has authorized access to the records: (i) If under the standard set forth in section 4 below, the incumbent President concurs in the former President's decision to authorize access to the records, the Archivist shall permit access to the records by the requester. (ii) If under the standard set forth in section 4 below, the incumbent President does not concur in the former President's decision to authorize access to the records, the incumbent President may independently order the Archivist to withhold privileged records. In that instance, the Archivist shall not permit access to the records by a requester unless and until the incumbent President advises the Archivist that the former President and the incumbent President agree to authorize access to the records or until so ordered by a final and nonappealable court order.

Before we get to the main point, it seems from the look of things that another executive privilege has been asserted: that instead of making all records of the President and Vice-President public, the choice is being reverted back to the former and incumbent leader of America to withhold certain papers unless there is a court decision that overturns the request.

With that being said, this further points to the current Presidency being more secretive than any other in history. Think about it. The entire Bush Administration has been built around secrecy. The past leaders of the United States had increasingly been generous to the public's right to know since the years of Watergate. This was in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Act. However, some of those same governmental papers are being reverted back to classified status. And with this latest story, this aspect becomes even more murkier when it has been found that Mr. Rove allegedly has been found involved in destroying e-mails between the years of 2003 and 2005.

I know some might ask what's the big problem with this. After all, people destroy their e-mails on a daily basis. The punchline is that with the Presidential Records Act, those e-mails fall under the jurisdiction of public records--especially if they have to do with alleged "official business" It probably wouldn't have been discovered unless the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington didn't make this public with their report about the disappearing electronic notes over a given period.

After some hemming and hawing, the White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino cut to the chase. Read the lowdown on CNN's site. But for the purposes here, there is a key excerpt of the story:

Millions of White House e-mails may be missing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged Friday.

"I wouldn't rule out that there were a potential 5 million e-mails lost," Perino told reporters.


Perino's disclosure about the White House e-mail comes a day after she admitted that the White House "screwed up" by not requiring e-mails from Republican Party and campaign accounts to be saved and was also trying to recover those e-mails.

Perino said 22 aides in the political arm of the president's office use party or campaign e-mail accounts, which were issued to separate official business from political work. Some of those accounts were used to discuss the December firings of eight federal prosecutors, a shake-up that has triggered a spreading controversy on Capitol Hill.

Congressional investigators have questioned whether White House aides used e-mail accounts from the Republican Party and President Bush's re-election campaign for official government business to avoid scrutiny of those dealings.

It gets even uglier. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy connected this finding with the canning of the eight U.S. District Attorneys. He even went as far as to connect the missing computer missives to what happened during the Nixon era.

What it comes down to is the fact that we need either an Independent or Congressional oversight committee to find out whether this has been the case. And since Ms. Perino hinted at it by allegedly saying that the White House "screwed up", well then it is time to get the ball rolling.

I don't know about you. But, I wonder how much more of this the American public has to take before they demand accountability from the White House. After six years of stories relating to the public's right to know verses the secrecy of the Administration, something has to give. During the Nixon years, there was an essential mistrust of the government due to Watergate.

Currently, the die-hard supporters of the Presidency still remain. Suffice it to say, their ranks are thinning out by the day. And knowing that impropriety after impropriety continues to happen, when will the straw break the camel's back here? What will it take before the public--in righteous indignation--finally call for our Congress to do something about this. At first, explaining away things might have worked in light of 9/11. But, now, when there is more and more trickling out about the Administration, there has to be questions asked and investigated.

With this news, one cannot go blindly into the night and believe that all is well. We must make sure that our leaders receive letters and e-mail to make them care about finding this out. If not, it will be the same old business as usual--especially in light of executive privilege and the slow eradication of citizens' rights in supposedly "The Free World".

One must question whether we are truly living in the "land of the free" when we find out that our government has not been entirely honest with us--especially when to hide facts that could shed light on important matters.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, American Original

In the midst of the Duke Lacrosse case outcome and the furor over Don Imus, very sad news has arrived over the wires. An endearing and important icon of American writing, Kurt Vonnegut, has passed away. He was 84 years old. The literary master wrote such timeless and enduring novels as Slaughterhouse Five, The Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Deadeye Dick, and Mother Night. He also wrote such classic short story compilations as Welcome to the Monkey House.

I started reading Mr. Vonnegut's works in high school. At the time, my AP English Teacher compelled us to read Slaughterhouse Five. It was an eye opening experience to me because in the past, we always read the classic works such as Shakespeare, Donne, Broker, Shelley, Fielding, and Wharton, among others. His writing presented a dose of fresh air because it was different and it paved the way for my delving into Post-World War II writers and their insights they brought in their work.

After discussing the works of Vonnegut back in high school, I became a life-long fan of his writing. It did, in its own way, discuss conditions in American society in terms of class, gender, race, society and history.

One specific book that had an impact on me was Breakfast of Champions (1973). This book discussed the irony and impact of the American dream, especially when it had to do everyday Americans in extraordinary circumstances. There were many aspects of the book that influenced me significantly. However, one excerpt that explains conditions in American society still even to this day. In gathering my thoughts for this entry, I re-read the same words once again:

The motto of Dwayne Hoover's and Kilgore Trout's nation was this, which meant in a language nobody spoke anymore, Out of Many, One: "E pluribus unum."

The undippable flag was a beauty, and the anthem and the vacant motto might not have mattered much, if it weren't for this: a lot of citizens were so ignored and cheated and insulted that they thought they might be in the wrong country, or even on the wrong planet, that some terrible mistake had been made. It might have comforted them some if their anthem and their motto had mentioned fairness or brotherhood or hope or happiness, had somehow welcomed them to the society and its real estate.

--Vonnegut, Kurt. Breakfast of Champions. New York: Dell Publishing, 1973: 9.

This relevant passage alerts one to the apparent disparities in the United States. Then, it opened my eyes to the notion that not everything was equal and fair. It also highlighted some aspects that are sorely needed for the nation to heal after a long history of conflict, competition and self-oriented thinking. What was especially important is that Mr. Vonnegut wrote with an empathetic view discussing the disenfranchised and the displaced as a result of the "American Dream".

What is especially noteworthy is that in his striving to be "impolite" in his writing, he specifically wrote with clarity in a no-holds barred fashion. His sense of irony and humor about describing the effects of national culture enlightened readers, like myself, to not ignore the conditions of society. Furthermore, his works invited his audience to discuss them by displaying particular points of view that would in the Bush 43 era of politics seem blasphemous and unpatriotic.

Make no mistake. Mr. Vonnegut served his country. He watched first hand how war devestates societies. Not to mention, he was a long witness to what occurred at home as well. His characters personify his delvings into these important issues and brings them out in the open by mixing the everyday with science fiction. His experiences in the war often outline some of the themes in his novel. As a result, they made excellent fiction that opened a lot of eyes.

Heck, you'd even think that the happenings now occurring during the last six years of the current Administration was more like the trips that Billy Pilgrim took. However, The Manchurian Candidate--another important landmark in American popular culture is a little bit more apropo about this present age.

Mr. Vonnegut's work influenced me as a writer to express myself by using, in terms of the Foucaultian manner, "truth to power". By simply writing creatively about social conditions and its effects on people, one was resisting the way things are by search for different realities. What was especially relevant was the fact that his writings conveyed that it was okay to express one's self by just simply calling things as "one sees it". There is no need to sugar-coat it. All one had to do is to simply call the shots and run with it. That knowledge brought me closer to the power of the written word.

For a shy lady from a plain-speaking family, this was an important note in not only writing what one knows, but to express it clearly through breaking the barriers in terms of thought. He also conveyed that in "breaking the barriers" a writer could use anything in his or her arsenal: humor, anecdotes, irony, among other things. It was okay to mix the personal with the political. And, it encourages a person to make sense of their past and present by discussing how they define a sense of themselves within the larger culture.

That is why I am very sorry that Mr. Vonnegut died. I know that he lived a long and fascinating life. I extend my condolences to his family for their loss. We need more writers like Mr. Vonnegut in today's society in order to keep on deconstructing American culture and putting thoughtful questions of its impact in the minds of the public. His works are another reason why we need not be silent and take things in a complacent light. Through personal expression, we free ourselves from the ties that bind in order to put the truth out there for others to carry on and change the aspects that rip at the fabric of national culture and ideology.


For another excellent essay on Mr. Vonnegut's passing, step on over to Bripe Klmun's blog. His essay, "RIP Kurt Vonnegut" also sheds light on the writer's work, life and impact.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Residue that Don Imus Left Behind

I have something to say later about the passing of an American original, Kurt Vonnegut. But, I would like to closely discuss the legacy of another individual--especially when his words affect the temper of the times. A lot has been said about Don Imus' comments on the air last week. The last post (hastily and tiredly written after listening to the press conference) covered one aspect of what happened.

There is a residual effect that opens a issue that is sorely needed to be discussed in American society. The words mentioned by the radio show host reveal a lot about how diversity is treated in America. Although there has been progress since the days of the Civil Rights era, still there is a problem discussing social disparity due to skin color. The sensitivity around the subject matter leaves it to be swept under the rug instead of confronting the hard issues surrounding it.

Sadly enough, it usually takes a highly explosive situation before the citizens of the United States can see the disparity occurring before their own eyes. For most of the time, it is "whispered about" in the guise of being hidden. There are even moves to distance one's self from empathizing true acts of racism because it reveals the flaws of society. It is never accepted that there are various ways to discuss diversity. Instead, one side usually gets endorsed to the point that some are so sick of it that they want conversations of race to disappear with silence.

In the present day, silence has caused detrimental effects on social relations and belief systems. Because some citizens would like to ignore what is happening, they aid in perpetuating the indifference and the lack of empathy towards due to institutional racism. Even worse, the silent complicity of hiding from a discussion about race continues to reinforce the attitudes built up around certain groups of people. Due to that inactivity, a blind eye and silent mouth toward wrongdoing only leads to yet another public figure "speaking their mind" about non-white people and women. Once these words have been spoken, no one can say that "we're all the same" and that "we're human beings". Frustratingly enough, phrases like Mr. Imus' "joking" on the air reveal the hierarchy of race that is constantly put forth in society. It is almost an anti-climax for a portion of citizens to feign surprise when events such as these occur--especially when they have stuck their head in the sand before.

What Mr. Imus' occurence demonstrates is that we cannot afford to let silence overtake the discussion of diversity in America. Understanding amongst various heritages and culture is highly important in this day and age. It also means coming to grips with our past to make sense of the present. If we don't confront this fact, the same old things will happen with similar results.

There is a lot more to be said about the entire incident with Mr. Imus. However, this aspect deserves to be examined thoughtfully so that discussions about diversity do happen on the American landscape. The most important part is that these conversations must be handled without fear and trepidation so that intolerance can be recognized and addressed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Did Mr. Imus Cross the Line?

This morning, I caught the press conference in which the President, Coach and women's basketball team from Rutger's University was interviewed. The way that the young women handled themselves in light of Mr. Imus' remarks were astounding. Through well-spoken, reasonable answers, they calmly faced the inquiries of the press as they would on the court.

There is something to be said about the dignity of people. And Mr. Imus' remarks reflected no such honor last week about the Rutgers' women's basketball team. Although he has interviewed celebrities, politicians and other dignitaries in society, he could not understand that ten young ladies deserved the same amount of respect that he has given other notable people in society. What is worse about this situation is that it highlights a pressing issue in society that goes beyond the simple privilege of having the freedom of speech.

It is having the ability to wield these words with a sense of empathy and respect.

Before my ex-communication from that forum, I discussed an issue similar to this one when dealing with the notion of "phrases in race-related talk". Weeks before Mr. Imus' comments, I was told that this was almost a "non-issue" and that there was no meaning to be had in examining what was said in race-related discussion.

I told them that I begged to differ because the phrases (for example, "Why do you people whine and cry about race all the time?" or "You're playing the race card!") are said all the time. I wondered aloud whether the people uttering these phrases ever thought about why they said them when engaging in discussions that discussed diversity and cultural awareness.

The obliviousness that I received from making this inquiry was astounding. In fact, some of the conversants would either try to attack my methodolgy. Or, they would deny that such words would have such an impact at all. The worst of it was centered around downplaying the phrases. In fact, the majority of persons within the talk were trying to talk around the obvious: that these phrases were used to dismiss not only the experiences being conveyed in race-related talk; but they were also used to dehumanize people to the point of infantilization("whining" and "screaming", etc.).

In this light, Mr. Imus' comments convey an uncomfortable aspect of today's society: when does freedom of speech cross the line?

Freedom of speech is important. I would fight for the right for all to express themselves. But this First Amendment right does not give one carte blanche to say things willy nilly without any consequences. For example, you cannot shout, "Fire" in a crowded building. After all, once one does, one could cause a riot.

It would be pretty sick for an individual (after seeing that people have been trampled upon once the shout of "Fire" was uttered) just to say that it was his or her opinion after such words have caused harm. Opinions, no matter the freedom given to them, have repercussions for good or ill. In Mr. Imus' case, his words conveyed ill will toward the achievements of the young women of Rutgers' basketball team, not only racially, but in terms of gender.

His remarks are not any different than the ones uttered by comedian Michael Richards not too long ago. What usually happens is that the speaker says what's on his mind about another group of people and says "it's a joke". Because of the "old boys club" of celebrity and the press, those comments are taken as gospel and often discounted in the name of political incorrectness. But, Mr. Imus probably received more hell than he could bargain for when the words he uttered caused an uproar across the country.

A two week suspension is not going to teach him the error of his ways no matter how much he defends his right to say his comments publicly. Mr. Imus, during that two week hiatus, has to take a crash course of empathy and identification with people outside of his race and gender. It might sensitize him to the hurt and despair one often feels when these insensitive remarks are often overlooked and erased by some of the public. Maybe he might notice when one is especially hurt, the supporters of the "said comment" often turn it around by stating something equally hurtful to dismiss the impact to nothingness.

It would take a miracle for him to realize this.

After all the times he's apologized, he repeated the same old pattern of disparagement on his show. What is one more time going to teach him--if there are not any hard lessons learned here?

I think that sometimes when people utter these phrases--whether the words reflect "nappy headed ho's" to "people whining and screaming about race"--it has to do with a lack of identification with the targeted group. Through distancing one's self from others who are different than they are, a person puts up a barrier against learning about diverse customs, histories and social norms.

For some, it is far easier to not care about these aspects at all and rather ignore them. This corresponds with the occurences of social and institutional disparities. People who don't want to connect with 'the Other' deny such actions take place. The reason why they deny that social disparities happen is because it occurs out of their sight and experience. When it does occur, people complicit with the system remain silent in such dreadful occurrences because it would betray that there is something wrong with how they live as a part of an accepted group in society. To keep such a system in place, it is far easier to deny such events wreak havoc on the social structure of a society. A far nefarious matter is when there is not an ounce of feeling by such persons as a result of the disparaging treatment. They most commonly want to "disprove" such events happen while chiding the person who describes them as being "delusional". And of course, the vicious circle repeats itself.

All of this points to a few conclusions. Race-relations is not often dealt with adequately in today's society. "Political correctness" is played up to be such a dirty term. Unfortunately, such desensitization continues against social groups outside of the dominant culture. As long as there is a no outstanding response to contradict and deconstruct such hurtful phrases, then the same patterns continue without abandon.

The sad thing about Mr. Imus' comments is that they are all too common not only in the press and public life, but also within our communities. Because a lack of empathy is so encouraged in American life, we reap what we sow. Since people do not want to think about the repercussions of their words, they lack the vision to realize what they say can hurt others.

People complain about sensitivity and 'being soft'. From siding with the principle of treating people with dignity and respect, I've learned that being empathetic and respectful of others is a very hard road to walk. It's sad, but a lot of people today do not have the capacity to care about others. And most often, those that 'don't care' often save their most vicious remarks for those who do. When they say them to the more sensitive and the caring, the vicious are often praised for their hardness and lack of vunerability.

And it is more of the same when it comes down to the problems created by Mr. Imus' words. It is even more exacerbated with his lukewarm response in terms of contriteness.

Mr. Imus is at a fork in the road now. He can truly try to relearn his attitudes and treat all people with dignity and respect. Or, he can just return to his job and continue down the same path of dehumanizing the people he chooses not to identify with.

It's all in his hands now.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Forum News

Hi all,

It's been a few days since the Ceci's News and Views forum has been set up. Now there are categories. I am still working on a mission statement for the board. I am also working on a "cultural awareness" policy that the forum will work on and continue to develop as well.

But, the latest category is for all my beloved patrons of the blog. There is a new section for members to discuss issues brought up here if they like. Join The Ceci's News and Views Forum and talk away! There are other categories that span interesting topics that members can be involved in as well. As stated there, we are a welcoming board that respects and celebrates diversity. It's no soap box, but it'll be a place where everyone is welcome and invited to share their constructive and intelligent views on current events society and politics. Or, if they like gaming or entertainment, they can converse there as well.

It's been a little over a year for the start of Ceci's News and Views. It evolved slowly over time. But, things are getting better and brighter for the little, shy lady of this blog. Join the fun and share the adventure!

Take good care,

Ceci :)

P.S. If you have any questions or comments about the forum or blog, please do email me at As always, all that I ask is that you don't send spam.

Speaker Pelosi Should Not Be Condemned

In the midst of the my own personal drama, I have been following another type of brouhaha--of the national kind. It seems that Madame Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been under fire for visiting with Syrian President Basshar Assad last week. With a contingent of Congress, Ms. Pelosi went there to promote the policies of the United States and engage in talks with the country.

However, on right wing radio, cable and television news, the pundits have been sounding off. The Vice-President Dick Cheney even chided the California Congresswoman for "stepping out of turn" in her trip to the Middle East.

With all the scuttlebutt knocking her around these past few days, she should be cut a little slack. Ms. Pelosi is doing her job. She is trying to make inroads where the present Administration will not: to engage in diplomacy instead of having a "scorched earth" policy. She's taking the right tactic. After all, Mr. Bush and his cronies have not been rather forthright about solving things diplomatically these days. What is especially unfortunate, is that they have continued to beat the drum on stirring things up with Iran in an adversarial manner.

But, it all comes down to this: Ms. Pelosi is the first woman Speaker of the House. She has elevated herself to a position that has been historically populated by males. She is a pioneer. But, it's not to say that her position is very easy. Because she has taken very hard stands that reflect her new leadership status, she has been knocked about by the men of Congress. Unfortunately, the old boy's club of Washington is still getting used to having a woman (and a liberal one at that) wield power and politics without being beholden to the "puppet strings" of PNAC cronies and old right wing war hawks.

What about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, you say? She's a woman. She's in a powerful position. Right you are. But, the difference between Ms. Pelosi and Dr. Rice is that the Secretary of State still does unquestionably the bidding of the President. She has not gone forth on her own to do anything different. In fact, her power is being held on a string. And when she does "speak out of turn", she retreats and defers to Mr. Bush and Co.

Ms. Pelosi does not do that. She is able to not only promote the best that America has to offer; she tries to be her own woman.

And she doesn't have to mistakenly call the President, "her husband" to do it. ;)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Looking On to Brighter Pastures

For the last two days, I have received e-mail from caring friends who expressed their shock over what had happened at that forum. I would like to extend a heartfelt and loving thanks for their notes of support after what seemed to be a protracted attempt to ask for a small request to the forum only to be punished for it.

I've spent these two last days soul searching over what had happened. I talked to family and friends. I've even consulted my tarot cards on the matter. But, the answer seemed to be plain and clear: as much as I loved being there and support its primary mission, the forum and myself were a match made in hell.

It's okay to say it. For anyone else reading my posts on the forum who didn't know me, they'd think I was a monster. And because of the controversial stands and contentious discussions I participated in, I wouldn't be surprised if the newer members thought of me as such. I am a very skilled and hard-nosed debator. That is a gift that I do not feel sorry for. But in the pursuit of passionate talk and exchange of information, I realize that perhaps that my tactics there were probably a bit too hard-nosed for the more sensitive amongst the members. And for that, I am very sorry. Because I prided myself on being precise and opinionated, I think that even my most controversial statements blew those who cared about me away.

During debate, I could not be the kinder, gentler Ceci. Because I'm used to exchanging my insights on a professional front with some real hard-nosed guys, I'm used to the terseness and the questions. I'm also used to people picking apart my awarenesses as much as they are used to me doing the same. In those exchanges, I am used to the school of hard knocks. But outside of that arena, it might seem shocking and rather impersonal. Especially, when I am used to treating social issues--that are usually emotional to everyone else--as research problems.

Some members at the forum did not get that and accused me of not knowing about "empathy". Or, being on a "soap box".

In fact, the harshest criticism came from one big cheese whiz who said, "IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT HERE, GET YOUR OWN FORUM!" before he punished me for the sin of simple inquiry (don't you love my use of CAPS? I hate doing so, but that's how angry HE was). Without fighting my case, I was ex-communicated, so to speak.

If he had gotten off of his high perch for just a little while, he'd see that I did. ;)

And furthermore, the grand poobah over there never did ask me whether I did like his board or not. He just assumed that I didn't. Talk about insincerity and ego-centric behavior.

What I can say about myself is that I don't get on soap boxes. I just try to fight hard to make my case. I think in a court of law a defendant could not ask for less of their advocate. I believe in trying to do my best to prove my own side. I consider the other side. I even try to make inroads toward a middle ground. But when there are too many factors that get in the way, then there is no meeting of the minds.

The tears still come sometimes because there are some people that I will miss dearly on the board. My heart still goes out to them and they have my thanks for their care and support. I certainly hope that by accident or by word of mouth they find me here and reconnect with me. I guess when you get "ex-communicated" by the big cheeze whiz at the forum, you undergo a bit of separation anxiety. And yes, it is very hard not to click on the site just to read what others have said for the day. It is also hard not to sift through my notes from friends and read their kind remarks as well as some Applauses for good work I've done.

But, one bad experience does not turn me away from forum life. I've been on forums before I came to that one, and I'll get on a few more. It is just that this experience was really unusual because I have never been badly treated at a forum before from some members to some of the staff. I've always been considered a respectful and polite person who is a good member, especially when making suggestions. But I guess, ego and intolerance stirs up a strange concoction of potent bromide--especially when it comes from people you would consider a little bit more refined.

I know in the next few days on the forum there will be those who will say that I "lacked communication skills" and that I had "discipline problems". There will probably be those who will send one another e-mail silently slapping each other on the back for my banning since I was such a "disruptive force" on an impersonal and obtuse board. It's okay. They can even call me the worst of names and continue to spread the negative aspects of my character if they want.

But, my heart is still with my friends there. I am still exceedingly loyal. And, quietly, I have moved on without a fight. I'm sad that I won't have my cup of Green Tea while reading some of the threads that suit my fancy, but I've got other things on the plate.

And yes, I'll have my cup of Green Tea again reading the posts of endeared friends and members once again--on a new forum.

(Don't you love product placement?) ;)

I'm going to be okay. And I'll be back writing about politics soon enough here too--once real life becomes more managable.

Sorry for the religious overtones, but, this is a day of resurrection. That's why I love Easter so much. It's a time to start anew with a clean slate and put the past behind you. Let's just say, that I am doing that for the good of my well-being.

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I have a Board!!!!!

Hey guys,

Unfortunately, I parted ways with the that forum once again. And now, I decided to create my own community based on politics and current events. If you guys are interested, please do post there and share your ideas!

The board is: The Ceci's News and Views Forum.

It will take a while to get started. And in a while there will be categories for people to post in. But, please do drop by and say hello.

Whew! It's weird being an Administrator. But, hopefully, I'll have moderators and posters. If not, it'll be a place for friends to discuss the events of the day without the drama.

And no, there will be no bully pulpit there. It'll just be real talk without the drama.

I've posted my e-mail in this blog, so please do e-mail me if you have any questions.

Other than that, I'll be back at the blogging thing soon. Unfortunately, I took too much time to integrate myself in a place that didn't welcome me as much as I like. And, now, I realize that the forum is not the place for me. I need to be around life-affirming people and engage in real talk from now on.

I'm not hurt by it. And, it is not that unfortunate. But, consider it the best.

But, I still love my forum family and will remember them fondly for their kindness and sincerity there. I am just sorry that I was misunderstood by other members outsides of my close-knit friends. For all the talk about tolerance, the members outside of my group of friends could not tolerate me or my ideas. Instead, they had to condemn me. And what is worse, they could not even address cultural awareness on the board. They could not even part their lips about it. In fact, they treated it with disdain. That is the saddest thing of all.

That is neither here nor there. I'm moving on and am very happy for it!


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